[Milton-L] Humble request (was Milton-L Digest, Vol 75, Issue 14)

Jameela Lares Jameela.Lares at usm.edu
Tue Feb 19 14:47:07 EST 2013

Might I humbly request that anyone posting to this list use a more descriptive subject line than "Milton-L Digest"?

Jameela Lares
Professor of English
The University of Southern Mississippi
118 College Drive, #5037
Hattiesburg, MS  39406-0001
601 266-4319 ofc
601 266-5757 fax
From: milton-l-bounces at lists.richmond.edu [milton-l-bounces at lists.richmond.edu] on behalf of John Leonard [jleonard at uwo.ca]
Sent: Tuesday, February 19, 2013 12:14 PM
To: John Milton Discussion List
Subject: Re: [Milton-L] Milton-L Digest, Vol 75, Issue 14

I can hear nothing trite in 'bear up and steer / Right onward'.  I can see that 'uphillward' might convey that impression (especially after the nautical imagery in 'bear up' and 'steer'), but Jim is surely right on when he says 'Right onward' is 'heroic in the face of adversity'. Both the language and imagery (sailing against a head wind) look forward to Satan's journey through Hell and Chaos, when he is likened to a merchant fleet 'Close sailing from Bengala' as it plies 'Stemming nightly toward the pole'. ('Close' and 'stemming' are also nautical terms.) 'Bear up' also plays on the senses 'uphold principles' and 'keep up courage' (OED 21), ideas that Milton took seriously.

John Leonard

On 19/02/2013 12:39 PM, James Rovira wrote:
I read the tone as heroic in the face of adversity, Milton believing that he suffered a loss of eyesight because of his defense of liberty in England.  I don't mean to argue that "steer / Right onward" might sound trite, but it could be that he hoped the serious tone of the poem up until that point would carry that construction through as well, and that the reference to his "noble task" would elevate it afterwards.  He also seems to consider the fame he won for his engagement of this noble task as compensation for his loss of eyesight.

So I would say that the "still bear up and steer / Right onward" is not later to be rejected, but is supported by the rest of the poem, while the previous clause beginning with "Yet I argue not..." is the idea to be rejected: that Milton might argue with God about his loss of eyesight.  He seems to be positioning himself as facing the temptations of Job here and coming out on top.

Jim R

On Tue, Feb 19, 2013 at 12:28 PM, Christopher Baker <christopher.baker at armstrong.edu<mailto:christopher.baker at armstrong.edu>> wrote:
Dear scholars,

I have read every article and chapter on "To Cyriack Skinner upon his Blindness" that I could get my hands on and am working through the tone of lines 6-9:
Yet I argue not
Against Heaven's hand or will, nor bate a jot
Of heart of hope; but sill bear up and steer
Right onward. What supports me dost thou ask?

Many editors note the revisions to the poem, including replacing "Uphillward" with "Right onward." In addition to more clearly initiating the sense of traveling/sailing  that other elements of the poem produce, "Right onward" sounds to me as purposefully trite, more along the lines of Milton's reference to the "fatal and perfidious bark" in "Lycidas," a trite explanation called in to be ultimately rejected. I see the four aspirated "h" sounds in the first halves of lines 7 and 8 as contributing to that tone.

What are your thoughts? Many thanks.

Angelica Duran

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